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Frequently Asked Questions


Who is doing the PhD?

It will be undertaken by University of Glasgow economic and social history graduate Michael Connolly, 27 from Lanarkshire.

Michael will be supervised by Dr Joe Bradley, senior lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Health Sciences & Sport, University of Stirling.

Dr Bradley has published in international-rated sociology, politics and history journals. He has self-authored, co-edited and edited several books, and has presented his research at conferences in Europe, North and South America and Australia.

Why have you commissioned a PhD?

We’re sincerely interested in exploring and evaluating the life of Celtic’s founding father, Brother Walfrid.

But the thing is, for such an important cultural and historical figure, relatively little is known about his activities and the consequences arising from his life in Glasgow and beyond.

What will the student be doing?

This research aims to explore and the figure of Brother Walfrid (Andrew Kerins), one of the most significant Irish immigrants to Scotland, an outstanding individual in relation to education and charity in Glasgow and a major contributor to the emergence of organised football in Scotland in the late 19th century.

This PhD, by research, will closely examine and investigate the “real” Walfrid, and his meaning and legacy for the multi-generational Irish Catholic community in Scotland and beyond.

Reflection of the effects of the Great Irish Hunger on Kerins and his family will be examined. His central role in the creation and formation of Celtic Football Club is critical as also is his faith and his charity work among the economically, culturally and socially poor and marginalised in Glasgow.

Published books, contemporary newspapers, religious documents and interviews will provide much of the initial materials to work with.

This research will bring a fresh view and understanding of this epochal figure for the Irish Catholic diaspora in Scotland and beyond.

It aims to substantiate the partial image we currently have of Walfrid and, indeed, of the circumstances that provided the conditions for the emergence of Celtic Football Club: a unique representation of the Irish diaspora in world sport.

Critically, it also seeks to explore and understand Walfrid and his importance to Catholic religious, social and cultural identities in Scotland.

Where will the research take place?

In Glasgow and anywhere where information about Brother Walfrid resides.

When will it be finished?

It will be finished by 2021.

How will you make the findings public?

Firstly through our newsletter. You can sign up here. We will also be making occasional announcements in the media. On completion, the findings will be published on our website


Who’s behind the campaign?

The owner of Glasgow-based arts group Nine Muses, Emma O’Neil. The company sells original contemporary art online. Clients span the globe.

The Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, and chief executive of Celtic F.C., Peter Lawwell, have both welcomed the PhD.

Why are you doing this?

A Catholic raised in Glasgow, supporting Celtic, Emma was inspired to set up the Brother Walfrid awareness-raising campaign after reading and learning about the Irish Famine.

“I’m inquisitive by nature and the more I learnt about it the more interested I became in this terrible period of European history. Most people would have left it at that.

“However, after becoming fascinated by the tireless work Andrew Kerins put in over a quarter of a century to alleviate the conditions of poor Irish immigrants displaced from Ireland to Glasgow, I wanted to do something about it.”

What happened next?

Emma did three things:

  1. Commissioned famous Scottish artist Peter Howson to paint a huge picture of the Celtic founder.
  2. Commissioned a one-hour documentary – tracing the life of Brother Walfrid and exploring the Irish Famine.
  3. Created a unique limited edition boxed set, the sales from which would go to the St. Mary’s Renovation Fund, with the remainder being used to fund the campaign to raise awareness of Brother Walfrid.

When does it start and when does it end?

The campaign started on 1 October 2017. The PhD began in September 2017. The campaign will run throughout the course of the PhD, which will be completed by 2021.

How will it be funded?

Nine Muses is fully-funding the PhD to the tune of £25,000. Other campaign costs, such as marketing, will be funded by Nine Muses and sales of the Brother Walfrid boxed set. Thirty per cent of the boxed set sales will go to charity – the St. Mary’s Renovation Fund –while the remainder will be ploughed back into the campaign to raise awareness of Brother Walfrid.

Brother Walfrid

Who is Brother Walfrid?

Brother Walfrid (Andrew Kerins) is widely recognised as the man who founded Celtic Football Club in 1887.

He fled the Great Famine, like many Irish Catholics, and made his way to Glasgow in the 1850s.

A Marist Brother, Walfrid was to have a profound effect on the lives of three generations of Scottish Catholics living in Glasgow’s east end.

First as a teacher at a junior school in Calton, then as headmaster of Sacred Heart school in Bridgeton.

Raising the literacy and numeracy levels of the Catholic population of Glasgow.

Why do you think he’s so important?

Without Walfrid there would be no Celtic.

Without Walfrid, generations of Catholics all over the world would have been a whole lot poorer, financially, culturally, and socially.

But it was his role in providing free (or next to free) food for the children of poor Irish immigrants living in slum conditions and struggling to assimilate to a different culture that marks him out.

It was Walfrid who established the “penny dinner” scheme in the east end of Glasgow, and it was Walfrid who set up boys’ clubs, and literary societies to promote reading; elevating the lives of tens of thousands of schoolchildren during his 24-year tenure in the city.

And it was this that led him to form Celtic to:

“Supply the East End conferences of the St. Vincent De Paul Society with funds for the maintenance of the ‘Dinner Tables’ of our needy children in the Missions of St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, and St. Michael’s. Many cases of sheer poverty are left unaided through lack of means. It is therefore with this principle object that we have set afloat the Celtic.”

What are his links to Celtic?

On November 6, 1887, in St. Mary’s Church hall, in the Calton area of Glasgow’s east end, he founded Celtic Football Club.